Brewers Associations Lays Off Additional 17% of Workforce, Including Julia Herz

The Brewers Association has announced a second round of layoffs, cutting 17% of its workforce, the national trade group confirmed to Brewbound.

The layoff amounted to nine additional employees of the BA, including one of its most recognizable faces and advocates for small and independent U.S. craft brewers: Julia Herz.

Herz had worked for the BA for more than 13 years, last serving as craft beer program director and publisher of CraftBeer.com. Denver alt-weekly newspaper Westword first reported Herz’s departure from the BA.

Herz, who has already updated her LinkedIn profile with a new venture, HerzMuses Enterprises, in which she lists her new role as “advocate and educator,” played that same role with the BA and became one of the most prominent women in the male-dominated craft brewing industry.

Other people confirmed to be included in this round of cuts include several long-time employees:

  • Acacia Coast, who served as brewers guilds manager on the BA’s government affairs team, and worked for the organization for nearly a decade;
  • Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association, who had been with the organization for 20 years;
  • Kathryn Porter Drapeau, event association director, who had been with the group for more than 19 years.

The BA has now cut its workforce by more than a third. In April, the BA laid off 23% of its staff and enacted tiered salary reduction for management. Among the cuts earlier this year was Andy Sparhawk, digital content editor for CraftBeer.com, who had been with the BA for 11 years.

In an email to BA members titled “Difficult News,” president and CEO Bob Pease wrote:

“Like most of you, the Brewers Association has not been untouched by the current global health pandemic and economic crisis. Despite our best efforts to weather the impacts of these events through cost-savings measures already implemented, the recent shift of the festival portion of the Great American Beer Festival from the annual in-person gathering in Denver to an online experience, combined with the cancellation of all our 2020 events and the subsequent loss of nearly 70% of our annual revenue, has forced us to make the difficult decision to make further reductions to our staff.

“Yesterday, we laid off an additional nine members of our team—an additional 17% reduction in staff for a total reduction of 35% of our workforce. In total, 24 employees have been affected to date. With these reductions also comes some internal restructuring to streamline efficiencies and maximize our support to our members as we right size the organization and best position the association for success in the coming years. More on these details will be forthcoming.”

These reductions in employment come after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the BA to cancel the in-person versions of all four of its signature annual events:

  • Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo American and the World Beer Cup, slated for San Antonio, Texas in April (14,818 attendees in 2019);
  • SAVOR, a craft beer and food pairing event, slated for Washington, D.C., in May (2,000 attendees in 2019);
  • HomebrewCon, the American Homebrewers Association’s annual gathering in Nashville, Tennessee, in June (2,500 attendees in 2019);
  • And the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), slated for Denver, Colorado, in September (60,000 attendees).

In 2019, the BA collected $27.7 million in revenue, $16.1 million of which came from events, according to its annual stewardship report. Other sources of revenue include advertising and sponsorships ($4.6 million), book and merchandise sales ($1.3 million) and dues from member breweries ($5.1 million). All other sources account for $487,222.

The organization spent $7.7 million on salary and benefits, and $5.5 million on event operations last year. The BA was net-positive last year, earning $639,970 more than it spent, but operated at a deficit of $589,721 in 2018.

Minutes after emailing members about the layoffs, the BA sent a different email to its GABF database announcing a virtual festival passport and T-shirt package.

“Between October 1-18, Great American Beer Festival passport holders will have exclusive access to beery deals at participating festival breweries nationwide, and access to online content during the virtual festival October 16-17,” the email read.

The packages range in price from $49 to $20.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated as Sparhawk was included in the first round of cuts by the Brewers Association. 

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